Music

Choose your acts wisely at this year's Summer Sonic

by Patrick St. Michel

Contributing Writer

The 2019 edition of the Summer Sonic music festival, held concurrently in Tokyo and Osaka from Aug. 16 to 18, marks the 20th anniversary of the gathering. Though that’s not the only special twist gracing an event offering the experiences of a big musical outing in the comfort of a metropolis.

The folks behind Summer Sonic announced their intention to take 2020 off, as one of their primary venues will be used for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. That makes this three-day blowout not only a celebration of 20 years of existence, but one final get-together before taking a break.

There’s a lot to take in, but here are a few picks for must-see acts in Tokyo.

This year’s headliners offer something for everyone, with festival-topping regulars Red Hot Chili Peppers playing Saturday night and dance-pop duo The Chainsmokers closing the whole fest on Sunday. Japanese band B’z, though, offer the best chance for a spectacle at Zozo Marine Stadium. This is the best-selling musical group in Japanese history, so expect a ton of folks from all age demographics — including aging rockers who haven’t given up on the dream — to pack in on Friday night.

Summer Sonic’s lineup features a few other spots that will boggle eyes and ears. While their Saturday night set on the Mountain Stage won’t match the insanity of seeing them perform in the stadium two years ago, metal-meets-idol duo Babymetal always show up big at a festival that helped slingshot them into global stardom. On Sunday, virtual YouTuber Kizuna Ai will perform, offering a chance for everyone in attendance to worry about the singularity.

This event has always been a good opportunity to catch up on what’s trending in music, both international and domestic. Sunday offers a good glimpse into global booms, highlighted by American rap collective Brockhampton and K-pop heavy-hitters Blackpink. The entire three-day stretch is even better for learning about 2019’s breakout Japanese rock acts, featuring rising groups King Gnu, Nulbarich and Official Hige Dandism.

Finally, the Asian Calling stage has fluctuated in size over the years, but always delivers great performers from across the continent. This year’s best offerings include the laid-back rock of Thailand’s Phum Viphurit, the funk-accented sounds of Taiwan’s 9m88 and the easy stylings of South Korea’s Bolbbalgan4.